PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The hub city from which to explore northern Arizona, Flagstaff is located on historic Route 66 and is a premier stop on America’s iconic Mother Road.  

Nestled among ponderosa pines of northern Arizona, Flagstaff owes its name to a group of patriotic travelers who stopped in the area while they were heading west during the summer of the nation's centennial.

The Beale Wagon Road was a well-known route used by immigrants making their way west to California. 

Beale wagon trail

The Beale wagon road ran along the 35th parallel across Arizona. It became a well traveled route to California. (SOURCE LegendsofAmerica.com)

The wagon trail had been established years earlier, in 1857, when Lt. Edward Beale was tasked with cutting a trade route across the vast nation from Fort Smith, Arkansas to California.

Beale's route took him along the 35th parallel. It's roughly the same path that Route 66 and then Interstate 40, follow through the northern part of Arizona.

Many people who made the trek west would pass through the area, rich in grass, water, and timber, that would become known as Flagstaff.  

One such group of travelers hailed from Boston and arrived in the area around July 4, 1876.

To celebrate the nation's centennial that year, the group found a suitable pine tree, stripped it of its branches, then hoisted an American flag up the newly formed flagstaff.

After they continued on their journey, their flagstaff became a landmark for those who followed.

That same year, Thomas F. McMillan built a cabin at the base of Mars Hill on the west side of town, establishing the first permanent settlement.

The site's rich natural resources lured sheep ranchers to the area, too. 

When the rail line made its way through in 1882, the area had established itself officially as Flagstaff.

Flagstaff had all the ingredients for a thriving community -- a railroad, livestock and lumber industries complemented by merchants, cafes, hotels and saloons to serve the sheepherders, cowboys, lumberjacks and train travelers.

By 1886, the year Flagstaff was incorporated, it was the largest city on the rail line between Albuquerque and the Pacific Ocean.

[SPECIAL SECTION: What's in a name]

 


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